This, is an terribly irresponsible and prejudicial headline in Saturday's Royal Gazette:
"Premier turns the tables on Dunkley"
Whether the Premier managed to turn the tables on Michael Dunkley or not (and I'd argue he didn't for some obvious reasons), that headline has no place in a newspaper other than above an opinion column. That headline was incredibly irresponsible.
That kind of statement is something better suited for the editorial page, but certainly not a headline, and certainly not the lead story. In fact, if you read the story, the article itself gets it right, it's the headline that is the problem:
Dr. Ewart Brown attempted to turn the tables on the UBP by pointing to Mr. Dunkley’s control of Bermuda’s milk supply.
Attempted is the key word.
Then there's the appalling lack of follow-up on the obvious shortcomings of the Premier's desperate redirection from the un-tendered handing of a million dollar government contract to his cousin.
If the media continue to publicise the Premier's attacks while he avoids the requisite scrutiny that comes with it by declaring any legitimate question a Plantation Question, why should he ever respond to their questions.
The press should stop behaving like his public relations agency until he upholds his side of the bargain. But of course, the Royal Gazette is the UBP's newspaper. Right?
The ultimate irony of all this is of course that as I listened to Parliament on Friday on the Motion to Adjourn, when the Premier was trying to discredit the UBP's Grant Gibbons, he repeatedly referred to issues reported by "His (Grant Gibbons's) newspaper".
A headline like Saturday's is simply irreconcilable with the tired argument that the Royal Gazette is pro-UBP. I'm tired of saying it, but I'll say it again, contrast the Royal Gazette's aggressive coverage of the UBP's internal problems of a couple of disgruntled members (Jamahl Simmons and Gwyneth Rawlins) and the soft peddling of the current standoff between the Premier and his party's entire branch structure. There simply is no comparison.
Other than the Mid Ocean News, which has a history of aggressive reporting against either party (remember McDonald's in the late 90s and Independence under the UBP), Bermuda's press corps is simply timid; there is simply no comparison between our press and that of other western democracies.
The Royal Gazette and other media outlets have been bullied to such an extent that they tip-toe around the PLP, rather than fight back against the baseless attacks on their integrity.
How, for example, the mainstream press can ignore the Premier's conflict of interest in developing healthcare policy and closing a public clinic while he operates a private one, and his declaration of intent to open a private hospital in Bermuda, while developing the plan for the rebuilding of KEMH, is simply beyond me.
The conflicts of interest are astounding, and would simply not be tolerated in other countries.
Again, I've said it before and I'll say it again, you CANNOT have a public figure operating private interests while developing public policy in the same area.
And, if it isn't abundantly clear yet, the Health Minister is the public front for the Premier who is driving healthcare policy in Bermuda, and that is an appalling breach of public confidence.
Now, I know that as we enter election season this "UBP newspaper" meme is going to be trotted out repeatedly, but it fails the most simple tests of credibility...notwithstanding whatever historical biases the Royal Gazette might have had.
The fact is that if you look at the media machine that surrounds the PLP, courtesy of the taxpayers at Government Information Services, and also the Premier's personal Press Secretary, it's almost entirely staffed by former Royal Gazette reporters.
Evidently the bias isn't that much of concern when it comes to hiring away the Gazette's 'biased' reporting corp on a regular basis. And let's not forget that as the Government hires away as many Bermudian reporters as they can, that means that more reporters will be expats, which means that Government has a very strong measure of control over the local media and the independence of their coverage.
Now, onto the content of the Premier's misdirection on the Bermuda Emissions Control scandal:
The first problem is that there is simply no comparison between Government creating a monopoly through an un-tendered secretive process and a private company providing a product which any entrepreneur could (and does) compete with. And to state the obvious, the Marketplace recently began to offer milk sales - so the market is open - and from what I know of Dunkley's Dairy, they sell many non-milk beverages that compete with other distributors.
Secondly, the Premier states that Michael Dunkley's dairy business has "a competitive edge protected by UBP-inspired legislation". Shouldn't the Premier have been challenged to identify a) specifically what legislation that would be b) when was it passed; Dunkley's has been in business for around 100 years from what I can tell and the UBP is less than 40 years old.
And of course, as in any case when criticism hits close to home and can't be refuted on the facts, Dr. Plantation brings race into the mix:
"His former Opposition Leader was running the country’s finances when Ministers were permitted to hide their bounty under the guise of trusts. Perhaps these examples illustrate the racial double standard recent defectors of the UBP have warned us about. Well, I’m not fooled by this racial double standard and neither is the public."
Nice try. We've been down this road before when the Premier, during his racist dog tirade, accused Grant Gibbons of setting up a trust while Telecommunications Minister, and it was categorically denied by Dr. Gibbons. Dr. Brown not surprisingly never backed up his claims with specifics. But why should he in the face of such a timid press corps?